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Julian Rose: Local solutions to global problems

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OK. Oh, wonderful, we're underway. (Polish) [I only speak a little Polish], (Polish) [But I'm glad I don't have to speak Polish]. (Applause) Well, it's nice to be able to speak English, and I'm usually trying to speak a little bit of Polish on these occasions, and people are very, very generous in this country about my rather feeble attempts to speak the language. But it always encourages me to work a bit harder at it. Now, local solutions to global problems. This is a massive title. But the reason why I chose it is because I'm a firm believer -- and it's come up already in some of the talks we've heard -- that we can't really make change, on the scale which is needed, as individuals. We see this massive issue facing us. We see global climate change. We see resources being used 3 or 4 times as quickly as our Earth can replenish them. We see massive changes taking place in agriculture, the vast monocultural food production systems churning out mass-produced foods with very little taste or quality or flavor to them. All these things are upon us now. But we as single individuals feel almost overpowered by this. Under those circumstances we have to be able to find a human scale. We have to be able to find a scale to do things on that makes us actually feel that we're in touch with our reality at our community level. It's also very important that we recognize the interrelationship between the financial crisis, food crisis, energy crisis, and social crisis. We need to see the big picture. Now, if you're thinking that you feel rather too small to do anything about really big issues, one thing I can tell you this is: you've never shared your bed with a mosquito. (Laughter) We know that we can make change, and we know that if there's enough of us, we can make big changes. We have to recognize that the consumerist goals that have pervaded the 20th and 21st centuries cannot go on much longer. We've abdicated our responsibility for the welfare of the planet and its inhabitants, and we must now focus on the resolutions. I saw this took 4 or 5 times before so... "It's not just a nice idea, it's a necessity whose time has come." Its time has come largely because we feel now that in our neighborhoods we can see a microcosm of all the issues which exist on a macrocosmic level. Right in our own neighborhoods, we can see the problems that exist. If we could tackle those problems right in front of our noses, and if we could all do it, we would make a big change to the global picture. Well, that says it all I think. "Everyone, it seems, wants more of everything -- except wisdom." Wisdom is something that we can acquire through time, through patience, through energy and through effort. Wisdom is not a commodity we can buy on the marketplace. Wisdom is something we can respect and see in other people. For instance, we've heard from an earlier talk, and we saw in the faces of some of the Polish peasant farmers what I would call, real wisdom. In these wonderful lines on their faces, and a sense of shining in the eyes. And a sense of knowledge about the use of the land over generations, and generations, and generations. This is something worth far more than the financial gain that we try and seek in our society. Now, this is an amazing quote, I like this one very much. "Civilization, in the real sense of the term, consists not in the multiplication, but in the deliberate and voluntary reduction of wants." You can understand, I think, what this means. If we've been trying and believing we can have everything, all we're doing is gradually undermining the future for our children and our grandchildren. But if we can work in a new way, if we can work towards a voluntary reduction of wants, we may find that the quality of our lives is actually much better. A simpler life could be a better life. Now, there you have what we're extolled to live in today, the supermarket. Now the supermarket, really, is something which is a prime example of global resources being used up and making us believe that we can, and we should have everything we want at any time of day, and at any time of night. Actually, we fly, we truck, we move around in ships vast, vast tonnages of food today. We are at the same time of course building up CO2 emissions by doing it. We're building vast tarmacadam roads. We're destroying once pristine environments. All for the sake of a global food market. Do we really need this global food market? The WWF published some figures literally just 2 days ago saying, it would take -- "In the last 40 years consumption has doubled, and diversity of species has declined by 30 percent." Yes. "Resources being used now by our planet are 1.5 times the speed which nature can recover them." In other words, we're using resources 1.5 times faster than nature can replenish those resources. This cannot go on, ladies and gentlemen. We hear people telling us, economists telling us, "It's a cheaper way of doing it." "You can get your food cheaply this way." But, do we have to produce food, and truck food around the world? And ignore the costs, the true hidden costs of doing this? Because the true hidden costs, if they were built into the price of that food, would make that food not cheap. That is for sure. Already about 10 years ago we did a study in the Soil Association in England, which revealed that over 3 million pounds is spent annually removing pesticides from the water supply. Well that's probably 10 million pounds today. We are losing top soil at the rate of about 20 to 30 tons per hectare because we're monoculturally [doing] mass production of foods, in order that we can have this cheap. Marketplace, this supermarket. But it is costing the Earth. Our planet is a living, breathing, moving being. Our planet is Gaia, we've heard Gaia being mentioned already today. She is not a lifeless commodity. She is a delicate and beautiful creature. Look at that wonderful rainbow. It's a mystery, it's magic. We don't want to treat her as a commodity. Well... What about the voluntary reduction of wants? That is of course a phrase which applies particularly to the richer nations of the world. There are many cases in poorer countries where they haven't reached the point yet of having stable enough to even be in the luxurious position of trying to make a choice. Everyone needs food, water, shelter, and education, basic education, to survive. But in the richer West and North America, we seem to have transgressed those barriers and gone far too far. Interestingly enough, I think Poland occupies almost essential ground here. Almost like a point of balance between an overdeveloped West and an underdeveloped South. Poland seems to hold a clue for this point of balance. "Storm clouds are brewing," is what that is telling us. If the 18th century revolution, Industrial Revolution in England -- Did it cause a rush to exploit our living beings' every sinew? Was that the starting point of this great global attempt to use the resource base only to gain our materialistic satisfactions? I think the industrial revolution in England is certainly a very key point in this process. Taking without giving back, you see. We're all encouraged to stay selfish [in] the society we live in today. A few corporations are now taking control over the food chain. For instance, in the sector of seeds, you have now 4 corporations owning 60% of the seed base. That's an extraordinary situation. All farmers need access to those seeds. In countries like India, farmers depend totally on saving their seeds and replanting their seeds for their foods. But if big corporations are going to own the seed chain and then genetically modify it and patent it, those peasant farmers are not going to have access to their way of life or their food. And ultimately, nor will we. "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter." That's a quote from Martin Luther King. I think it's a very apt quote, because, you know, it's very easy to look at things and say, "Hmm, you know, that's a tough step to take. I don't really want to cut back on what I'm doing now. I'm in my groove, perhaps I'll just close my eyes to that problem." Every day we're seeing and hearing on television, something, big crisis. "Uh," you feel, "one after another, let's just close our eyes." But if we close our eyes, we absolve ourselves of responsibility for the future, and ultimately we become complicit in the crime. The global economy is predicated on a drive for profit and power. The local economy is a microcosm of the global economy. It's an economy on a human scale. So help support a local farmer. If you really like your food, and you like its flavor, and you feel that you need vigorous, fresh and flavorful foods, you know the best way to get them? The best way to get them is to go to a local farmer and say, "Hey, could I have some of what you're growing?" And of course it's important that this is ecologically grown. Fresh, flavorful, living foods is really about local and community, because if we truck them all over the world, consider this: no food which calls itself "fresh" in the supermarket is less than 5 days old. And we know from research done about 15 years ago that the average trolley of supermarket food has traveled over 4000 kilometers before it ever arrives in that basket. Now that's a massive distance. It's been through about 5 temperature changes in that process. It's been packaged. And it's been finely covered in cling-film plastic, and put on a shelf with neon lights and it's lost its vigor. This is not food, ladies and gentlemen. Now, the reason why I can jump around here now, and I'm coming down with some sort of [flu], which makes me feel slightly spacy, is because I grew up on unpasteurized milk. It's a great symbol of real food. (Applause) And, you know, I had to fight very hard in England, I had to fight two campaigns to try and stop the government banning this milk. But we succeeded, thank goodness. And now it's coming back with a vengeance. That is a living food. "Pasteurized," "ultra heat treated," "homogenized" is not! Now, I use this as a symbol for all foods, because I think it's desperately important that we understand that it's a deception calling this stuff -- It's gone -- The one with the supermarket. That is the real food. Excuse me, earlier slide. And the supermarket shelves -- that's not food. That's not fair to call it food. For instance, fresh milk ought to be unpasteurized milk. If it's pasteurized and homogenized, why should you call it "milk"? Now then, health is important, isn't it? Health which doesn't cost the Earth is even more important. Artisan living foods are vital for our future health. This means that we've got to bring consumers and producers closer. This is something I call the proximity principle. Ideally we would be growing -- for Cracow, for example, Cracow would be getting, let's say, 80 to 90 percent of its food from the area immediately surrounding the town. Now, it may be getting quite a lot of its food from there. But there are many voices who are saying, "Ah, give up that. Don't worry about it. You can get it cheaper on the global marketplace through the supermarkets." Which means the end of a lot of ways of life for small farmers. But if we could encourage those small farmers to survive, the only way we can do it is by organizing ourselves into groups and supporting them, because their future is in our hands. Health is vigor, health is life, health is environment. You know, biodiversity of the environment. Yes, Poland's one of the leading nations in the biodiversity of the environment. The guardians of that biodiversity are the farmers. They are the people that make it possible to have those wonderful farmhouse foods. What about energy? Can we support nature and process her natural energy at the same time? Can we support nature and process her natural energy at the same time? Well, we certainly can't if we choose nuclear energy, oil energy, coal energy, all based on finite resources. We do not live in a world which is infinite in resources. We live in a world which is finite in resources, and all those resources are running out. What's more, they have associated with them, unfortunately, serious problems of pollution. In the case of nuclear energy, basically, the pollution is in the waste, and the waste, which has the half-life of radioactivity in some cases of 30 thousand years -- Do we want to subject our children and our grandchildren to that time lag in pollution in our society? No, we can go to the small scale. Solar and wind energy at the local and community level. Education. Education is head, heart and hand. That's what education really is. Education isn't just head, head, head, and... Hand. (Laughter) No, that's not education. That's not what we should be going towards. We should be going towards a balance of head, heart and hand. And that balance is achieved by looking at education in a completely new way. Of finding a way to balance our emotional, our spiritual, and our intellectual abilities, and not separating them out. So education is a key part in the new world which we want. By making ethical investments, we can put our money back where our heart is. Absolutely crucial situation for us all today. Put your money where your beliefs are. Ethical investment banks are growing very, very rapidly in England. A lot of money is now going into them. They are still, I think, to take off in Poland. But by putting our money where our heart is, we close the gap, and we make sure that we're not living hypocritical lives. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." That's a very beautiful quote. What it actually means, essentially, is that we, by taking a step into this new sense of unity with our life, with life itself and with nature, can embark on a wonderful journey. And it only takes one step to start doing it. Now, that step can be a very small step, or it can be a very big step. But the important thing is to take it. Because if we don't take it, what sort of world are we going to leave to the future, our children, and our grandchildren? It's been a great privilege to have the opportunity of giving this very exciting lecture with TED, here today with you all, and I wish you all our best, and really, let's join in unity in going forth and saving our planet Earth. Thank you. (Applause)

Video Details

Duration: 18 minutes and 15 seconds
Country: Poland
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: TEDxKraków
Director: TEDxKraków
Views: 543
Posted by: tedxkrakow on Dec 15, 2010

Talk delivered at TEDxKraków, on October 15, 2010.

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